They were the Weather Men, and they ruled the world.
They showed up on the coldest day of the year, demanding payment for favorable weather in the upcoming year. Everyone dreaded their arrival: the metallic scratching at the door would strike send a shiver down the spine of even the most hardened criminal, and as soon as you could detect even the slightest chill in the air, kings and paupers alike would begin to worry about what the next year’s payment might be.
The Weather Men claimed they were not monsters by reasoning that they only asked for as much as each person could afford. And for as long as Anna could remember, people believed them. But she knew better. All payments were some kind of sacrifice, and more often than not, the only thing that would satisfy the Weather Men were hopes and dreams. Those who could afford the tax prospered with bountiful harvests and beautiful days at market; those who refused to pay were punished with droughts, floods, or worse…but at least they could hold onto their dreams.
Anna stood in the middle of the forest, barefoot and shivering. Over the last ten years, her family had resisted paying the Weather Men, and despite the bad weather, they had persevered. But her parents had starved to death two years ago, and she had lost her husband and her home in a hurricane last month. The villagers no longer offered her help, for fear that her bad fortune would rub off on them. Her only hope lay in the child growing in her belly, and she knew the Weather Men would be coming to claim that in just a few days.
The storm clouds gathered overhead. She looked around, biting her lip nervously. She had never worked an Earth magic spell so close to Tribute Day, and she whispered soft prayers to the trees to shield her. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes as she began to sing.
Over the decade of her resistance, she had learned that the Weather Men could be defeated, but it would not be easy. Only someone channeling elemental magic could be a match for the manufactured wizardry of the Weather Men. And though Anna had mastered a few spells, she knew that no mere human would be able to control the highly unpredictable Earth magic.
No mere human. The child stirred inside her.
Vines twisted and curled around her feet as her song became more complex, and the air around her began to warm. She wiggled her toes in response.
Anna’s pulse began to quicken. If she was successful, she would become a dryad, a creature of the earth, and no longer under the thumb of the Weather Men. But if she faltered, if she made even one small error now, both she and her child would be caught in a hellish eternity of half-human existence: subject to the whims of the Weather Men but unable to die.
She took another breath and continued with her song.
Of their own accord, her toes began to stretch into the ground, searching for the water that would be her new lifeblood. She raised her arms towards the sky, and watched as her fingernails became green and thin, like leaves. Her pulse was slowing now, changing from the nervous movement of human blood to the ebb and flow of tree sap.
The baby kicked in response, fighting the change with its whole being.
Hush, little one, she crooned silently. She still sang, but no longer made noise with her mouth. You shall grow strong with my blood and the magic of the earth. When you are born, you shall emerge as the greatest enemy of the Weather Men and be their downfall.
The baby quieted down and settled into the knot at the base of the tree. The trees in the forest joined her song with creaks and moans, swaying in the wind.
Soon, they whispered.
Soon, she answered.
I gave Talia this prompt: Write something from the point of view of a virus (computer or biological, your choice).